Game story: No. 14 Arkansas finally puts down unranked Old Dominion, 86-77, on Monday at Bud Walton Arena

By Kevin McPherson
on 2023-11-14 03:00 AM

By Kevin McPherson

FAYETTEVILLE — The 14th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks were served no cupcakes at home on Monday, so they had to scrap out an 86-77 win over unranked Old Dominion on Nolan Richardson Court inside Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas (3-0, No. 13 in KenPom rankings entering Monday’s game) was coming off an 86-68 win over Gardner-Webb on Friday, while Old Dominion (1-2, No. 189 in KenPom rankings entering Monday) was playing a second consecutive road game after losing by five points at Ball State in the MAC/SBC Challenge on Saturday.

Against ODU on Monday, the Hoop Hogs took the lead for good at 7-5 early and built 14-point leads in both halves, but the Monarchs refused to let Arkansas pull away while managing to erase multiple double-digit deficits with scoring spurts to pull within two-possession margins throughout the game.

The Hogs used a 14-5 run to take their second 14-point lead of the game, 79-65, with 5:06 to play, but ODU struck back with an 8-0 run to pull within 6 points, 79-73, at the 3:42 mark.

Arkansas’ lead was once again at 6 points, 83-77, before the Hogs closed out the contest by making 3-of-4 free throws for the final 9-point winning margin.

Senior guard El Ellis led five Hogs in double-figure scoring with 17 points to go with a game-high 8 assists, 3 rebounds, and ZERO turnovers. Senior big man Makhi Mitchell came off the bench to record a double-double — 15 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis had 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, ZERO turnovers, and a team-high boxscore plus-12 in 37 minutes. Sophomore forward Trevon Brazile had 11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 1 assist in 31 minutes.

Mitchell was succinct in summing up what was arguably his best game as a Hog now in his second season in the program.

“Just playing my minutes, embracing my role, and just doing my job,” he said.

The Razorbacks’ two leading scorers coming into the game — Khalif Battle and Tramon Mark — struggled with early foul trouble and had relatively off nights. Battle finished with 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist in 21 minutes while Mark had a season-low 7 points to go with 6 rebounds and 1 assist in 21 minutes.

Arkansas made 30-of-59 field goals (50.8%), including 8-of-19 from 3 (42.1%), and 18-of-29 at the free throw line (62.1%).

Defensively, the Hogs were solid in the first half but porous in the second half as Old Dominion finished 31-of-71 overall from the field (43.7%), including 11-of-24 from 3 (45.8%). In the second half, ODU got what it wanted inside and out, including an 8-of-13 effort from distance (61.5%). For the game, the Monarchs were 4-of-5 at the free throw line (80.0%).

The Razorbacks were minus-54 on the glass (39-35), including minus-4 in offensive rebounds (12-8). Arkansas was plus-6 in turnovers (10-4) and an impressive plus-614 in points-off-turnovers (18-4). Arkansas lost bench scoring (40-33) and was dominated in fastbreak points (21-9).

“We have to be way more physical defensive rebounding the basketball, way more physical,” Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman said after the game. “Defensively, 43% (by ODU), we’d obviously like our opponents to shoot a lower percentage. But the field goal percentage wasn’t the issue. It was the lack of three-point defense and certainly the lack of physicality.

“I mean, we’re going to be playing against teams that are much bigger, much stronger, much more athletic. And we’re not rebounding with any physicality. … It’s just not happening other than Mitchell. He’s our one guy that’s rebounded with physicality. I thought we were great against Purdue doing it, and we’ve really bad physically rebounders the last two games.”

Musselman also noted the positives from his team before circling back to the negatives.

“There’s some real positives, believe it or not,” he said. “Defending without fouling is something we really worked on. We got the towels out. They had to hold the towels above their head [in practices] to stop touching people. The fouling was really good. How many foul shots did they take? Five (4 of 5). So defending without fouling, A-plus. Taking care of the basketball, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team only have four turnovers against a high-steal team. Against a team that plays four guards at a time and has great quickness. So taking care of ball, A-plus.

“Defensive rebounding, Double-F. Transition defense, Triple-F. Guarding the three, there’s no guard it was so bad. So some good, and some very poor.”

Musselman remained perfect (36-0) in regular-season non-conference games played at BWA. He’s now 98-42 overall as Head Hog, which includes a 53-9 record against non-conference opponents and a 45-33 mark against SEC foes (all three marks include postseason results).

Next up, Arkansas will host the last of four consecutive home games at BWA against North Carolina-Greensboro at 7 p.m. CT, Friday, Nov. 17 (livestream via SEC Network Plus).

Musselman started the quintet of Brazile, Davis, Mark, Ellis, and senior stretch-5 Chandler Lawson for the third consecutive game.

Mark and Battle sat most of the first-half with 2 fouls each. Reserve wing Jeremiah Davenport’s corner triple followed by a Mitchell free throw capped a 10-0 Arkansas run good for a 14-point Hogs lead, 25-11.

But ODU outscored the Hogs 20-12 to close the half trailing only 37-31 at the break.

Mitchell (11 points and 6 rebounds) and Davis (10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal) led the first-half production for the Hogs.

Arkansas made 13-of-29 field goals in the opening half (44.8%), including 3-of-9 from 3 (33.3%), and 8-of-14 at the free throw line (57.1%).

Defensively, the Hogs held Old Dominion to 13-of-34 field goal shooting (38.2%), including only 3-of-11 from 3 (27.3%). The Monarchs were 2-of-3 at the free throw line (66.7%) in the first half.

The Razorbacks were minus-5 on the glass (22-17) in the first half, including minus-4 in offensive rebounds (9-5). Arkansas was plus-4 in turnovers (7-3) and plus-6 in points-off-turnovers (11-5). Arkansas won bench scoring (22-16) but was dominated in fastbreak points (15-3) in the first 20 minutes.

(Last updated: 2023-11-14 03:00 AM)